I recently read something that struck my sensibility about parenting to the core. It was an essay written about parenting teenagers – but it made so much sense regarding the parenting of preschoolers, too. (ntmoms.com/letter-teenager-cant-write/)
Parenting is at best challenging and at worst the hardest thing we have ever done. The metaphor in the article cited above is a really good one. As parents, we are holding on to the other end of the rope. Your child will pull, and twist, and swirl and pull and even try to pull it away as she swirls. It is our job to hold on. To be their anchor – even, and especially, when it takes all our strength to do so.
I know this so very well as the mother of four teenagers. Its so hard when they are little – but it’s so very scary and even sometimes harder when they get bigger. You hope that they will make the best decisions and you pray that they will stay safe – and you are so grateful when everyone is back home and tucked into their beds. But holding on to the rope is essential and exhausting – and it all started back when they were three feet tall.
Preschoolers and teenagers need to flail. They need to know where the edges are. It’s how they stay grounded and feel safe. It’s how they know they are loved. However it is hard- especially when they are young. We want them to be independent. We want to nurture their strength and sense of the world. It gets tricky to know when to say no; when to say stop.
We all want our children to be self-actualized operators in this great big world of ours. We all want them to be strong and independent – resilient – we want as parents to nurture and cultivate those attributes. Stopping their urges, not fulfilling their requests – its exhausting. But it is ESSENTIAL. Hold on to the rope. Keep them grounded. It is the only way and it is what they are asking for – the whole entire time.
I say to you – as someone who struggles with this – to remember to hold on to the rope. Hold on. Hold them in – don’t really let them go; they need to know where to find the ground. Love them all the time. And they will become that self-actualized human being that you want for them. If you let go and just let them flail out in the world – the unravelling can leave them lost.